Everything else.. Wilpattu: Eco-justice or Scapegoat?

Wilpattu: Eco-justice or Scapegoat?

2019 Jun 6

Sri Lankans have had no difficulty in pairing a racial and political connotation to the crisis within Wilpattu, with regard to its large scale deforestation. The growth of vigilance around the matter has now proven to be a classic red-herring situation. This World Environment Day, we made a discovery as to the despairing reality the country is facing in relevance to its rich silviculture.

The question of Wilpattu has been brought back to mainstream media as a contentious topic given the anomalous decision put forth by the court of appeal, after hearing the case for a period of close to 4 years. The CA judge Mahinda Samayawardhena declined to deliver a verdict, thereby channelling the hearing to a new bench. This new CA bench will now rehear the case.

The status quo demands a comprehensive view of the deforestation climate in the country.

As denoted within the documentary, our country has lost a colossal 286,000 hectares of forest coverage, over the span of 20 years. This elaborate loss of forest coverage is accounted to areas all around the country, primarily facilitated by resettlement efforts. Unfortunately, the spread of awareness in relevance to the fragmentation in areas other than Wilpattu is shrugged off for unknown reasons.

The Rainforest Protectors organisation has been given the limelight in a number of occasions for being a progressive front in providing a dialectic service for the blurry reality surrounding forests in our country. The short documentary stars John Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee who spoke to Pulse about the organisation’s discoveries once a detailed mapping of reserved areas were made.

In crystallising certain facts, he mentions that when conducting a comparative analysis of Wilpattu, it proves to be “trivial” once reviewing the damage elsewhere. This analysis stems from the fact that in comparison to the 4000 hectares worth of damage in Wilpattu, close to 85,000 hectares of forest have been cleared in Yala.

This massive destruction doesn’t end here.   

Chundikulam, which is situated in the North West of the country, was gazetted recently as a protected region. Rainforest Protectors mentions to us that close to 8000 hectares have already been deforested in these areas. He goes on to mention that areas such as Somawathiya National Park and FloodPlain National Park are under severe threat as well.

UNESCO protected sites such as Knuckles, Peak Wilderness and Horton place have not fallen through the cracks of the wave of illegal land grabbing and agriculture. The avenue for research and awareness that ought to be built around these areas, unfortunately, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

Due to these factors, we have decided to make a deeper dive into the abyss that is the undocumented abuse of the forest resource of this country. Action is required now, failing which we should choose to be silent forever.

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